Reading Roundup: October and November

Yeah, I know it's already halfway through December, but I like to keep track of what I've been reading (and I don't know if anyone has missed this or not). The problem is, during the quarter I don't have time to read anything for fun, and this quarter I didn't get to read any novels, so I'm not sure what "counts" or not. I don't usually put most of my school reading on stuff like Good Reads, but I thought I'd talk a little about what I did this quarter. One of my classes was on literary theory, so just read a variety of articles from theorists, including Freud, Derrida, Benjamin, etc.

The second class I had was on Shakespeare; we focused on research methods and theory as well, so each week we read one play and two or three critical articles. Each week had a different way to look at Shakespeare, so we discussed things like animals in the plays, maps, gender theories, language theory, performance issues, and acoustics. We also read plays that are less-commonly studied, and most of them were ones I'd never read before: Henry IV (Parts 1 and 2), Titus Andronicus, Pericles, Cymbeline, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Two Noble Kinsmen, As You Like It, and a comparative version of King Lear that had both the Folio and Quarto versions (they're very different). It was a good class, and I particularly liked Pericles and Cymbeline.

My third class was actually on contemporary Spanish film, so any reading we did was also critical articles. The specific topic for the class was social realist film from the 1990s and I thought the films were all pretty interesting. We saw:

Barrio and Princesas by Fernando Leon de Aranoa

Barrio is about three teenagers who live in poor families in a suburb of Madrid. Princesas is about a Spanish prostitute who becomes friends with another prostitute who is an illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic. They were both really good movies, and I wrote my paper on Princesas because I liked it a lot. It's a very good movie, but it definitely has some "mature" content (not that much sex, interestingly, because the director was trying to make it about the characters' lives beyond the fact that they are prostitutes).

La flor de mi secreto by Pedro Almodovar

This is actually a very tame Almodovar movie, so if you'd like to try one of his it's a good one to start with. It's about a woman who is going through a crisis in her life and in her profession as a writer.

En construccion by Jose Luis Guerin

We all agreed that this was the most boring movie of the quarter. It's a documentary about gentrification in Barcelona, and is put together with very little editing and no soundtrack. Some parts of it are interesting, but it's also pretty long and slow.

Flores de otro mundo and Te doy mis ojos by Iciar Bollain

Bollain is a woman and a pupil of the British director Ken Loach (who is known for very "realist" cinema), so that should give you an idea of her style as a director. I really liked both these movies, particularly in light of the feminist theory we were reading regarding the view of women on film. Both are excellent movies--Flores is one I would recommend more to the average viewer because it's a nicer story about people learning to accept differences and to grow as a community. I thought Te doy mis ojos was the better movie, and I keep thinking about it. But I would probably never watch it again. It's about domestic violence and is one of the most terrifying movies I've ever seen. Very well-done and I think very accurate, but it's an intense viewing experience. Not a lot of actual violence on screen, interestingly, but the atmosphere of fear the actors create is incredible.

Solas by Benito Zambrano

I thought this movie was somewhat interesting, but it wasn't my favorite of the quarter. It's a story about dysfunctional families in Andalucia. The main problem with it is that the first half and the second half of the movie were somewhat disjointed and didn't really seem to match.

That's what I've been up to for the last two months; maybe I'll read something during December that I can review here. I've been pretty busy this week but I've still managed to get most of the way through a book. We've also watched a few movies for fun, so maybe I'll put them in their own post too. Not sure if this one was all that helpful, but if anyone out there likes to read Shakespeare or watch Spanish movies about social issues now you know where to start.


rantipoler said…
There were a couple of girls who presented on Flores during our grad student conference and I've been curious to see it ever since. Glad to know you liked it.

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